One of the great works of 1930s poetic realist cinema, Le Jour Se Leve was Marcel Carne's third collaboration with screenwriter and poet Jacques Prevert. A story of obsessive sexuality and murder, in which the working-clas... more »s Francois (Jean Gabin) resorts to killing in order to free the woman he loves from the controlling influence of another man, the film cemented the reputations of Gabin and Carne.« less
Lewis P. (Turfseer) from NEW YORK, NY Reviewed on 12/12/2010...
Well-acted but plodding, uncreative glimpse at love quadrangle
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Le Jour Se Leve was considered good enough by Hollywood to be remade into a Henry Fonda vehicle in the 1940s. It's also currently considered a classic by many film critics and appears on some of the top ten lists for best film of all time. From my perspective, it's just another one of those films that's gained a reputation and because everyone else says it's great, it must be! But looking at it objectively, the story not only plods along but fails to pay off.
The film begins with Francois, a factory worker, who has barricaded himself in his rooming house after shooting a man. The police arrive and he fires bullets through the door which almost hit the unarmed officers standing outside. The police call for reinforcements and a standoff ensues. The rest of the film involves flashbacks which explain how the situation arose as well as flash forwards to the present, with Francois holed up in his apartment as the police take various actions to try and get him out.
It seems that Francois has fallen for a young waif, a floral shop worker by the name of Francoise and courts her assiduously. After a few weeks, he wants to stay the night with her but she tells him she has another engagement in the evening. Francois follows Francoise to a nightclub where Valentin, an older man, is performing a dog training act. Francois spies Francoise as she goes through the stage door in the back of the club to visit Valentin. Meanwhile, Francois runs into Clara (played by Arletty who was blacklisted for awhile in the French film industry after having an affair with a German Officer during the Occupation in World War II). Clara, who is Valentin's assistant and lover, reveals that she's just broken up with him after a three year relationship.
The rest of 'Le Jour' revolves around Francois shacking up with Clara but also seeing Francoise. Valentin confronts Francois continuously and at one point falsely claims that he's Francoise's father. Finally, Valentin comes over to see Francois with a gun and admits that his initial intent was to shoot him. After further angry conversation, Francois takes Valentin's gun and shoots and kills him with it.
That's almost it. After all the flash forwards to Francois dodging police bullets fired into his apartment, he finally decides to shoot himself. After all the machinations amongst the quadrangle, the suicide is probably the most unimaginative way to conclude the story.
Le Jour's characters are all rather one note. Francois is the probably the best of the bunch since he has that gift of gab with women. But he's also an obnoxious hothead who can't control his temper. After he shoots Valentin, are we really supposed to feel for sympathy for him? The shooting is completely uncalled for. As for Valentin, his wacky demands for Francois to stop seeing Francoise become tiresome. Yes we get it that he's insanely jealous but it would be nice if we found out some things about him. Francoise appears particularly spineless as she continues her relationship with Francois despite continuing to see Valentin. I couldn't understand what she saw in Valentin and it's never really explained. Perhaps she's 1939 France's answer to a 'flower child'. Finally, Clara is the most level-headed of the bunch. She garners sympathy at the end when she attends to Francoise after she faints as the police close in on Francois. But Clara's screen time is limited and seems to be the odd woman out in the drama.
Le Jour is certainly well-acted and Jean Gabin is particularly good as the smooth-talking Lothario who seduces both women. But with all long-winded 'present day' scenes with Francois besieged by the police, unexplored motivations of the various principals, one note characterizations and that climax which ends in a whimper, Le Jour Se Leve is a decidedly overrated film, undeserving of inclusion in the pantheon of art house winners.
Bruised People, Poetic Realism, Doomed Love
Gerard D. Launay | Berkeley, California | 07/29/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"There is always more beneath the surface of a Marcel Carne film. It's all in the details such as the shots of a one-eared teddy bear in the attic reflecting the hurt of the man about to be terrorized by the police. This movie - a precursor of film noir - begins almost at the end when an honest laborer, beaten down by the system, kills another man out of passion and has to hide in an attic until the police finally break down the door..at daybreak. (French law provided that the police could not enter until dawn). The story of the events leading to this dark ending is told in flashback. There is an eerie sense of dread everywhere. For example the hero (or shall I say anti-hero) works as a sandblaster in a factory and when he works, he is sealed in a cold suit of metal...all the while dark, demonic shadows abound or sulfurous fumes escape. In the same scene, a flower girl arrives but loses the freshness of her plants because of the smoke.
Made in 1939, the film is also a warning to France which was on the eve of war with Fascist Germany and itself holed itself up - in isolation - until the inevitable disaster. (The Vichy government which collaborated with the Nazis forbade the showing of the film0.
As in so many of the great Marcel Carne films, the director is obsessed with doomed love. In those dark, edgy days leading up to the war, it must have seemed to Marcel Carne that happiness, while precious, is short lived - always on the verge of being snuffed out callously.
I cannot fault the pitch perfect, sad performance of Jean Gabin. Watch his eyes as he awaits his inevitable doom. Gabin - as Francois - portrays a sympathetic, bruised man. He loves an orphan perhaps because he himself was an orphan.
Of all Marcel Carne films, "Le Jour se Leve" is his most compelling metaphor for the impending disaster awaiting France. Poetic realism indeed.
Le Jour se Leve
Michael Todd | Yorkshire, United Kingdom | 04/08/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A very bleak but marvelous film. Jean Gabin is always watchable but this is a fantastic performance, beautiful and tragic. My one problem with this particular copy of the film is that the quality is not great and the subtitles do not translate every line, or even every other line. It has inspired me to brush up on my French, but when you buy a film with subtitles you expect at least most of the dialogue to be subtitled. A real shame."
Randy Keehn | Williston, ND United States | 10/30/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In 1952, "Sight and Sound" presented their first Top Ten poll of the best movies of all time. Coming in a tie for 7th place was "Le Jour se Leve". As the 20th Century drew to a close, movie fans were given a treat in the form of the book "The New York Times Guide to the 1000 Best Movies ever Made". The book omitted movies from the silent era but was quite receptive to foreign-language films. Yet the book did not list "Le Jour se Leve" as one of it's top 1000 films. How does a movie go from top 10 to missing inclusion in the top 1000? Perhaps "Le Jour se Leve" cam claim the title of being, simultaneously, the most over-rated and under-rated movie of all time. Personally, I liked the movie when I saw it last night but I debated about giving it a 5 Star rating.
"Le Jour se Leve" is the story of a murder that strips away any semblance of suspense by giving the audience the victim and the murderer in the opening scene. It doesn't take much longer to clarify the motive as well. The movie's greatness is telling a love story within the context of our knowing its' extreme outcome from the start. This approach gives the audience a unique focus on each and every step of the developing romances as the films goes through a number of flashbacks. The main character is an easy-going laborer who stumbles into a relationship with a young woman. There is another man and that leads to another woman all of which we pickup on in successive flashbacks. There are a couple of minor twists that we don't see coming but the movie is very up-front with the plot.
"Le Jour se Leve" emerges into an intense romantic drama that develops the main characters in a method of excellance that was the likely reason for its' "Sight and Sound" Top Ten rating. The characters are of varying complexity and the talented cast, led by Jean Gabin, is outstanding. The direction by Marcel Carne is the key to the whole film. I could not recall a scene that didn't add to the movie's impact. This movie suffers from the key to its' own success; its' predictability. Once I understood that, I was able to appreciate its' excellence but I can't fault anyone who thought otherwise. "Le Jour se Leve" doesn't make my Top Ten but it certainly makes the top 1000 with plenty of room to spare."
When "Day" Is Done
Alex Udvary | chicago, il United States | 07/31/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As I watch the films of Marcel Carne I sit there and I'm amazed. How could someone be so blessed with talent? How do some people become so fortunate?
Carne is without question one of the greatest filmmakers that ever lived. I've only seen a small handful of his films, but, I don't need to see that much to recognize his genuis. Both of his films "Children of Paradise" and "Port of Shadows" rank among my all time favorite films. And "Daybreak" is just as good.
"Daybreak" actually has something in common with "Children of Paradise". Both films are anti-war parables. In fact, I think "Daybreak" does a better job of presenting its views.
Francois (Jean Gabin) has just killed a man, Valentin (Jules Berry) in a crime of passion. Both men were in love with Francoise (Jacqueline Laurent). The film then takes place in flashbacks as we see how Francois and Francoise meet and eventually fall in love. We also learn how Francois and Valentine meet and what leads to Valentine's ultimate faith.
After killing the man Francois locks himself in his room so the police cannot get him. He has now isolated himself from the world. At this point I should point out the film was made in 1939. World War 2 was on the horizon. Supposedly this film was released before the war started, but, people of Europe knew war was on the way.
When we look at the film from this context "Daybreak" is more than a story of doomed love. The film argues evil is on the way and in a world filled with hate and violence there is no room for love. And without love, we cannot survive. Lets also remember America did not enter the war at the beginning. Does Francois' action of isolationism reflect this country's stance on the war?
The movie was based on a story by Jacques Viot and written by Jacques Prevent, who also worked on "Children of Paradise". Prevent and Carne were quite a team. Their work together dwells deep into the conscience of the times. These films; "Port of Shadows", "Children of Paradise" and this film, are making social arguments in the most subtle of way but by the time the film is over, the effect is not only powerful but lasting.
Marcel Carne's films seem to be difficult to find in this country. I'm going to search though. With three movies he has turned me into a strong, devoted fan of his work. If you haven't seen any of his films I strongly suggest you do. And it doesn't matter where you start. Watch whatever you can find from him. In the end you'll realize, as I have, Carne is a master.
Bottom-line: A strong anti-war film that deserves to be compared to Carne's "Children of Paradise". Both films dwell deep into the public's conscience of the world around them. A powerful film!"
Carné gave eloquent voice to a mood of fatalistic, romantic
Roberto Frangie | Leon, Gto. Mexico | 01/03/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In the late '30s and early '40s, the films of Marcel Carné gave eloquent voice to a mood of fatalistic, romantic pessimism... After the war, however, his career was a sad shadow of its former self...
Central to Carné and Prévert's conception of doomed love was Jean Gabin's proletarian antihero, trapped in darkened rooms and foggy streets while awaiting retribution for crimes he barely knew he might commit: in "Quai des Brumes," Gabin's deserter comes violently up against local gangsters in a battle over the girl with whom he has fallen suddenly, passionately in love; in "Le jour se Léve," surrounded by police but unable to contemplate surrender, he recalls the events leading to his shooting of a girlfriend's seducer...
Widely described as poetic realism, Carné's style is in fact anything but realist; the squalor, shadows, and smoky bars all externalize the hero's melancholy resignation to an unjust Destiny... Without Carné's expert control of atmosphere, the effect might seem merely picturesque, for rarely have solitude, alienation and death been imbued with such elegance and beauty...